Marlon Johnson is the Acting Financial Secretary. Instead of policy being discussed, he is consumed now in controversy over the fact that he does not believe in God. His name was never called but by deductive reasoning, an address by Bishop Neil Ellis last Sunday in his pulpit led to the conclusion that the atheist he was talking about was Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson helped in that matter by a post he put on his Facebook page in which he identified himself as atheist. He saw it as an attack on his individual freedom of choice to be religious or not. Perhaps if he were a private citizen, we might agree. But he is a public servant, as a public servant his is not to be involved in any invective, public dialogue or controversy with public figures. This has been the criticism of his role when he started out as Financial Secretary. You have no public views about any matters as a public servant. So the problem is not atheism. The problem is the public service rules and whether they are being adhered to. In this case, silence would certainly have been golden.
FOR THE RECORD [ From Marlon Johnson’s Facebook page]:
1) I am an atheist and a humanist. I have been so my entire adult life.
2) While I have always been open about this fact, there are literally thousands of Bahamians who are unbelievers and agnostics. Most choose to keep quiet about it even as they work along side you, or date you, or sit next to you in church.
3) I am fortunate to have been appointed to senior executive positions in public entities under the Christie Administration and the Minnis administration.
4) I was first hired as a junior Civil servant under the Pindling Administration.
5) I was selected and appointed by then Prime Minister Ingraham to serve as a Counsellor in the Executive Offices of the IDB in Washington, with an exception made because I did not meet the minimum age requirement.
6) At no time did the Pindling, Ingraham, Christie or Minnis Administration ever consider my religious views in their appointments to these various posts. These Prime Ministers and their representatives understood the freedoms and privileges afforded to all Bahamians – the very civil liberties for which our forefathers and foremothers had struggled to attain.
7) Neither I – nor any public officer that I work alongside – bring our religious views to the execution of our duties. We understand the need for fidelity to the laws of the land and the policies of the government.
8) We live in a civil secular democracy. The rights enshrined in our constitution are the foundation of our wonderful pluralistic society. We are privileged to live in a country where all opinions can be shared loudly and lustily (and daily on social media).
9) It would be a shame if ever we sought to disqualify anyone from any public or private office – or even just castigate them personally – because they openly maintain a creed that does align with that of our own. Such a disposition puts on a road to tyranny. We do not want to travel that road.